Class has been a bigger factor in this election than in any election since the New Deal era. Trump’s insurgency rode largely on middle- and working-class fears about globalization, immigration and the cultural arrogance of the “progressive” cultural elite. This is something Bill Clinton understandsbetter than his wife.
Trump owes his election to what one writer has called “the leftover people.” These may be “deplorables” to the pundits but their grievances are real – their incomes and their lifespans have been decreasing. They have noticed, as Thomas Frank has written, that the Democrats have gone “from being the party of Decatur to the party of Martha’s Vineyard.”
Many of these voters were once Democrats, and feel they have been betrayed. And they include a large swath of the middle class, whose fury explains much of what happened tonight. Trump has connected better with these voters than Romney, who won those making between $50,000 and $90,000 by a narrow 52 percent margin. Early analysis of this year’s election shows Trump doing better among these kind of voters.
At the same time, however, affluent voters — those making $100,000 and above — seem to have tilted over to the Democrats this year. This is the first time the “rich” have gone against the GOP since the 1964 Goldwater debacle. Obama did better among the wealthy, winning eight of the 10 richest counties in 2012. In virtually all these counties, Clinton did even better.
What does this mean for America’s traditional middle class, whose numbers have been fading for a generation? Long the majority, notes Pew, they are no longer, outnumbered by the lower and upper classes combined. Yet like the Anglo population, in this election what’s left of America’s middle class has shown itself not ready to face the sunset.